Buffalo Pasture/Prairie Uplands

The Buffalo Pasture and Prairie Uplands is a 392-acre landscape in the central portion of the Platt National Park National Historic Landmark District, part of Oklahoma's Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Although this area is not as highly used as some other areas of the park, the landscape exbihits a special character and provides a unique experience for park visitors.

Although bison were nearly extinct by the mid-1800s, bison have been displayed continuously by the park since the 1920s. Buffalo Pasture/Prairie Uplands: Cultural Landscapes Inventory, NPS, 2007

Several large, brown bison bow their heads to eat grass.
Grazing bison herd at Chickasaw National Recreation Area (NPS)

NPS Photo, Chickasaw NRA

In general, the area is primarily a natural landscape, with few visitor facilities. The landscape mainly consists of upland prairie habitat dominated by short lobed oak and prairie plants. The Superintendent’s Residence is one of the few structures located in the landscape. Another prominent feature is the Buffalo Pasture, which is a fenced pasture for the park's herd of six bison. Visitors may view the buffalo from a parking area and overlook or from the trail which runs along the pasture fence. 

Aerial view of Buffalo Pasture/Prairie Uplands, 1930
Aerial view of Buffalo Pasture/Prairie Uplands, 1930

NPS/CHIC Archives

The Buffalo Pasture and Prairie Upland landscape is significant for its association with the former Platt National Park (a National Historic Landmark District), within what is now Chickasaw National Recreation Area. The district is important for its association with the development of national park landscapes completed during the Great Depression and funded as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs. 

The district is also significant for embodying the characteristics of the type, period, and methods of construction typical of the “rustic style” of park design developed by the National Park Service in the years between World War I and World War II (1916-1942) under the leadership of Thomas Vint.

In general terms, Rustic park design limited development to preserve natural scenery, and buildings and structures were designed in harmony with the natural landscape. This meant using hand craftsmanship, local architectural styles and natural materials such as stone, wood, and native plants in the design of each park structure or element. 

A low residential building, framed by several leafy trees, has stucco finish.
The Superintendent’s Residence was built in the 1930s to serve a the home for the park's Superintendent and family.

NPS Cultural Landscapes Program, 2013

As part of the former Platt National Park, the Buffalo Pasture and Prairie Upland area was a large, natural setting which provided a backdrop for the rest of the rustic style elements designed throughout the park. The area was designed as a space for park facilities not oriented to camping, water enjoyment, or high visitor usage. 

Today, the area is still important as a repository of early park history, as exemplified by the buffalo herd, which has been a feature in the park since 1920. The area also contains a number of rustic features constructed between 1933 and 1940, including the Superintendent’s Residence.

Quick Facts

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Designed
  • National Register Significance Level: National
  • National Register Significance Criteria: A,C
  • National Historic Landmark
  • Period of Significance: 1933-1940

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Last updated: May 20, 2019